The central messages of Tyler Cowen's Aug. 21 Other Opinion piece ("Who pays for free parking?") were that government regulation causes oversized parking lots and that unrestrained market forces would shrink them.
I've served on Knightdale's Land Use Review Board for nearly five years, two as chairman. From what I've seen, market forces demand large parking lots despite regulatory attempts to shrink them.
Knightdale's regulations set a maximum number of parking spaces; exceeding this requires costly steps to reduce negative environmental effects. We also require a minimum number of spaces, which is half the maximum. Almost all projects brought before our board, particularly retail projects, are at, near or above the maximum. We've also tried to persuade applicants voluntarily to reduce parking, to no avail.
So strong is market demand for parking that reducing the number of spaces, we've been told repeatedly, would cause anchor tenants to withdraw and projects to collapse. Faced with the high cost of providing parking, developers consistently demand more.
Yes, regulation plays a role in the size of parking lots, and work is needed to reduce auto-dependence. But to lay full blame on government and suggest market forces as the solution is stunningly naive, likely counterproductive and grossly unfair.